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Medication-assisted treatment combines counseling, behavioral therapies and medication to treat substance abuse disorders. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, prescribed medication operates to "normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids, relieve physiological cravings and normalize body functions."

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was written in response to reader-submitted questions through Open Source, a platform where readers can ask Richland Source’s newsroom to investigate a question.

MANSFIELD -- Substance abuse remains a pressing issue in Richland County. Fortunately, there are resources available.

According to the Richland County Opiate Board, 2,686 people received treatment in Richland County for substance use disorder during fiscal year 2020 -- 1,673 of those people received treatment for an opiate use disorder.

Joe Trolian confirmed that between 2,500 and 3,000 people seek addiction services each year through the publicly-funded Richland County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board. Those figures don't include individuals who seek help through privately-funded agencies.

"The addiction problem as a whole is still pretty significant in Richland County," said Trolian, the board's executive director.

Trolian noted the abuse of substances like heroin and over-the-counter medications has decreased, but use of fentanyl and fentanyl mixed with methamphetamines has increased.

A reader recently asked why Richland Source had not reported on the presence of Richland County’s only methadone clinic through our Open Source forum. Upon further investigation, we found there are actually multiple facilities in Richland County that offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opiate addiction. 

MAT treatment facilities in the Mansfield area include the Mansfield Comprehensive Treatment CenterMansfield UMADAOPHealing Hearts Counseling Center, BrightView and Third Street Family Health Services.

MAT combines the use of FDA-approved medications with counseling and behavioral therapy to treat substance use disorders. MAT is most commonly used to treat opiate dependency, but medications to treat alcohol use disorder also exist.

Common medications for treating opiate addiction include methadone, naltrexone and buprenorphine. Because these medications are also opioids, patients don’t experience withdrawal symptoms like they would during an abstinence-based detox approach. 

But unlike other opioids, these medications are designed to block pleasure receptors in the brain, making it harder to get high or enjoy using the medication.

Like abstinence-based recovery, the goal of MAT is to allow those in recovery to live normal, healthy lives. 

Some in recovery utilize MAT for a short transitional period, others continue benefitting from it indefinitely. Trolian said MAT has helped many in recovery reach stability in their personal and professional lives.

“Methadone is an older school opiate treatment and it was designed as a long-term treatment. There have been people who have been on a methadone treatment 15, 20 years," he noted. “It's no different than you or I taking blood-pressure medication."

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that MAT has proven to be clinically effective and significantly reduces the need for inpatient detoxification. MAT has also been shown to improve patients' ability to get and maintain a job and stay in treatment.

Richland County has numerous resources available for those who prefer an abstinence approach to recovery, which involves therapy, behavioral health tools and completely detoxing from substances.

“In Richland County we support all roads to recovery. Everybody's different and we need to find what's best for them," Trolian said.

To learn more about community resources for those in recovery, call the Richland County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board at 419-774-5811. 

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at katie.ellington@richlandsource.com